Standoff forces Merritt Island complex to evacuate on Christmas Eve

SWAT team called in to capture suspect barricaded in apartment

MERRITT ISLAND, Fla. - The hunt for an armed robber forced families to evacuate their homes on Christmas Eve, leaving behind everything from gifts to dinner.

That standoff lasted for more than six hours before finally coming to an end just before 10 o'clock Monday night. It began after deputies said the suspect, who was wanted for two armed robberies, barricaded himself inside an unit at the Wlliamsburg Village apartments right off Courtenay Parkway in Merritt Island.

Brevard County deputies could not get the suspect to come out until a SWAT team shot tear gas into the apartment.

When they finally pulled out the suspect, who they identify as Mark Holland, he had a lot to say to Local 6 cameras about being innocent.

"I didn't do [expletive]. I'll beat this," shouted Holland, who said he did not rob anybody, even though deputies said he robbed two stores in one day. First, a gas station a few blocks away, and later, a produce stand that was just feet from the apartment complex.

As SWAT teams rolled in, neighbors were evacuated and waited, frustrated.

"I have stuffed peppers in the oven and I can't go in and turn it off because they asked me to leave," said Brenda Kelehar.

Andrew Bidal said, "I just can't believe somebody would do this on Christmas Eve. He probably ruined so many people's days."

Despite all the trouble and hours long standoff, deputies said Holland only got away with shoes and about $75.

The SWAT team finally shot tear gas into the apartment and found Holland hiding under a bed, unarmed.

Neighbors who know him said it's about time he go to jail.

"He just a little punk kid causing trouble all the time," said Bidal. "I'm just glad he's finally gone and out of here."

Holland does have a record. In fact, deputies said before his arrest Monday, he had two other outstanding felony warrants waiting for him.

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